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Knucklehead Craft Brewing – Webster’s Finest Craft Brewery

Hidden on a back road of Webster, NY is the almost-year-old Knucklehead Craft Brewing.

The converted former Grocery Store is now a cozy tasting room for their six flagship beers and a rotation of seasonal and special edition brews. On October 8, 2015, they released Ichabod’s Gourded Ale, which is their take on the fall pumpkin ales.

Co-owners Len and George can often be seen behind the bar, serving beer and making conversation with patrons, who, for the most part, are regulars. Every time I’ve visited, it’s been busy. Every seat around the bar is filled and the other bartenders, including family members of the owner, are friendly and attentive. Parking can sometimes be a challenge when they are really busy, but it’s worth it.

We stopped in and selected the Ichabod’s Gourded Ale after trying a small sample. The Ale is 7.6% ABV and pours a golden orange color. It’s heavy on pumpkin taste and an appropriate amount of spice without the sweetness that seems to plague some pumpkin ales. It’s extremely drinkable, which is dangerous considering the ABV.

Knucklehead Craft Brewing's Limited Edition take on the Pumpkin Ale, Ichabod's Gourded Ale.
Knucklehead Craft Brewing’s Limited Edition take on the Pumpkin Ale, Ichabod’s Gourded Ale.

If pumpkin isn’t your poison of choice, they also offer a solid selection of flagship beers that hit all the major categories. My personal favorites are Kathys Kreme Ale and their Knockout Stout.

If you can’t make it to the tap room, you may find their beers at various establishments in the Rochester area.

If you miss out on Ichabod’s Gourded Ale, don’t be sad. They’re releasing their Maple Vanilla Porter on Thursday, October 22nd at 4:00 PM.

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ROCtoberfest – A Review

On the final Saturday of September, Rochester brought a little piece of Germany to High Falls. Specifically the Genesee Brewery.

Ok, if you’re local to Rochester, you might have just gotten confused there. A brewery, known more for its Cream Ale and Genny Light than German heritage and strong beer doesn’t seem like the venue for an Oktoberfest celebration. Fortunately this was called ROCtoberfest.

My faithful companion and fellow beer enthusiast arrived at the Genesee Brewery earlier than the 3 o’clock start time. We decided to hit up the brewery itself, which offers tastings and growler fills on the bottom floor (it’s just past the gift shop). For a mere $2 you can sample four beers from their current selections. Added bonus? Most of the proceeds go to local charities.
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And, in case you were wondering, I was able to find four delicious beers that weren’t Genny Light.

After enjoying our flights, we walked to the festival, located across the street in a parking lot. It was a nice sunny, warm day, the perfect setting for an outdoor event.

After seeing online that the event was tentatively going to have a $5 cover charge, we approached the entrance with our IDs and cash in hand. To our delight, admission was free and I got to apply that cash towards a stein.

 

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It was bigger than my head and probably held a full six pack and cost me $17.

The band that began the day is Die Lustigen Almdudler, who played many traditional German songs and led the crowd in dancing, cheering and revelry.

It was a great excuse to get out of the house, enjoy the company of good people and honor my German heritage as well as some cold beer. Not to mention the venue has stellar views of the Genesee River and the Rochester skyline, for those of you into that kind of thing.

What I Found at Lost Borough Brewing Company

I’d heard the name Lost Borough Brewing Company tossed around a few times in conversation at other breweries in the area. They had some interesting looking brews on their website, but I finally decided I had to check them out in person when they showed their Sour Raz, a raspberry-flavored sour beer.

Located off Atlantic Ave in Rochester, NY, just around the corner from the original Sticky Lips, a local BBQ restaurant that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. The tasting room isn’t huge. The walls are adorned with their merchandise, Rochester posters and an educational graphic about the process of how beer is made, a nod to the founders’ teaching background.

Another notable display is their Brew Crew, where for $100 per year, you not only get a spiffy stainless steel tumbler for your exclusive use every time you visit, but numerous other perks. Once the term ends, you get to take it home. Unfortunately for you, it’s sold out until March 2016.

What isn’t sold out (at least of this writing) is the Jug Club, where for $120, you get 12 free fills of a similarly spiffy stainless steel growler.

That aside, they had eight beers on tap on the day of my visit. The newest was the Sour Raz. As the brewery hasn’t been around for a full year, they’ve been playing with different styles and varieties of beer to see what Rochester is thirsty for. If you’re very polite, they will let you see their beer guide which lists all of the creations they’ve released since they opened.

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I started off with the $7 flight which gave me a chance to try four beers. I selected Sour Raz, Amber Ale, Borough Bock and Oblivion Black IPA.

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Sour Raz looked and tasted, to me, like a raspberry lemonade. They brewed the sour beer with 24 lbs of fresh raspberries. At 3.2% ABV, the low alcohol content and lightness of the brew makes it a natural summer beer. Sour beers are not for everyone, but I enjoyed it a lot. It came very close to Uberlin from Strangeways Brewing in terms of tartness. The color was a pale cloudy pink and barely resembled a beer, but that is by no means a criticism.

The Amber Ale and Borough Bock were darker beers that tasted similar. To be honest I couldn’t tell the difference. They were delicious but didn’t stand out to me.

The Oblivion Black IPA, however, was a standout (which we may see again on Brewelist). It resembled a porter or stout and was dark as night. It was heavy but not so much it beat you over the head. There was definitely hoppiness to it, and I’m finding that I do quite enjoy Black IPAs. My husband, who is into IPAs in general, said there was something about it that he didn’t quite care for but he couldn’t figure it out. Oh well.

The other really excellent thing is that they are very into education (it was founded by some Technology Teachers) and are more than happy to discuss it with people in the bar. They can likely recommend something you’ll like from their selection and don’t keep secrets about what they’re brewing next.

My husband and I are already planning our next adventure to The Lost Borough Brewing Company, and if you’re in the neighborhood, I’d encourage you to check it out as well.

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Virginia Craft Beer Month – Ardent Craft Ales, Isley Brewing Company and Strangeways Brewing

”He was a wiseman who invented beer.” – Plato

Greetings and salutations to all from the glorious Commonwealth of Virginia! My name is Sean and it is my mission to introduce the world to the wonderful beer and similar beverages being created here.  We are fortunate to have several different breweries and cideries being showcased during Virginia Craft Beer Month during August of this year.  I have taken the liberty of visiting the following breweries in celebration: Ardent Craft Ales, Isley Brewing Company, and Strangeways Brewing Company, all located in Richmond, Virginia.

Ardent Craft Ales was my first stop in my whirlwind tour.  They have a large outdoor beer garden in addition to a comfortable indoor seating area near the bar.  I sampled their Virginia Common Lager, Saison Farmhouse Ale, India Pale Lager, and Honey Ginger Summer Ale.  The Virginia Common Lager (5.3% ABV) had a decent drinkability with a slight crispness and balanced flavor.  The saison (6.7% ABV) had a spicy kick that accompanied a rustic flavor with an unfiltered quality. The India Pale Lager (4.9% ABV) featured a lighter hop flavor and aroma than traditional IPAs.  The aroma comes from the dry hopping during fermentation.  My favorite sampling was the Honey Ginger Summer Ale (7.8% ABV). The ginger spiciness coupled with the sweet tang of the honey made for a treat for the palette.  It won a silver medal at the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Conference.

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A flight of fancy at Ardent Craft Ales. Credit: Sean Peters

 

Quite literally around the block in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood of Richmond, Isley Brewing Company features a variety of interesting beers served in their comfortable tasting room.  They had about ten beers to choose from on tap and I sampled: “Dark Palm” Chocolate Dunkelweizen, “Off the Boulevard” Red Ale, “The Bribe” Oatmeal Porter, “Choosy Mother” Peanut Butter Porter,  and “Jah’s Fire” Barley Wine. The Dark Palm (5.5% ABV 11 IBU) was a real treat as I enjoy darker beers.  It featured a light coconut flavor combined with cocoa and coffee notes due to the malt.  It made me think of an Almond Joy or Mounds bar without the overpowering sweetness.  Off the Boulevard Red Ale (5% ABV 16 IBU) was surprisingly drinkable. I t wasn’t overly hoppy and I got a hint of apple in the aroma.  The Bribe (6.6% ABV 19 IB) was a malty, balanced porter. It had notes of coffee and cocoa similar to the Dark Palm but with a more bitter mouth feel and taste.  The Choosy Mother (6.6% ABV 19 IBU) had a similar character to The Bribe but with a delicious peanut butter flavor and aroma. The peanut butter went well with the dark malt of the porter. I think I enjoyed that beer the most. Jah’s Fire was my first barley wine and it had a strong fermented taste with noticeable savory umami qualities.  Although not one of my favorites, it had an interesting flavor.

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Isley Brewing Company’s Dark Palm Dunkelweizen. Credit: Sean Peters

 

Strangeways Brewing Company rounded out my beer adventure.  The atmosphere and variety of beers on tap is best described by their motto, “Think strange, drink strange.” On this visit, I tried “Eternal Youth” Biere D’Apricot, “Wake Me Up Before You Gose,” “Albino Monkey” White Ale, “Woodbooger” Belgian Brown Ale, “Phantasmic” East Coast IPA, and “Gwar Blood” Red Ale. Eternal Youth (5.2% ABV 15 IBU) had a balanced, slightly sour apricot flavor while the beer had some of the rustic qualities one would find in a saison.  Wake Me Up Before You Gose (4.6% ABV 10 IBU) is a style of sour beer called gose that originated in Northern Germany and is made mostly from fermented wheat.  This particular beer was conditioned in ghost pepper rum barrels which lent a slight vinegar aroma and flavor.  Albino Monkey (5% ABV 25 IBU) had a very peppery aroma, with a spicy flavor and hint of orange.  It was lighter in body and crisper than a Blue Moon for comparison.  Woodbooger (6.0% ABV 20 IBU) had a sharp roasted aroma with hints of cocoa and vanilla which combined for a complex, refreshing flavor.  Phantasmic (7.0%ABV 70 IBU) featured a strong piney aroma with a crisp, surprisingly drinkable flavor over hoppier West Coast IPAs.  Gwar Blood (5.5% ABV 70 IBU) gets its name from famous costumed heavy metal and Richmond native band, Gwar.  The flavor of this red ale is hoppier than some other red ales I have tried, including the Phantasmic.

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Not pictured: The arcade in the back room. No, really, they have an arcade. Credit: Sean Peters

 

Ardent, Isley, and Strangeways are but three of over a hundred craft breweries and cideries to choose from in Virginia.  Their uniqueness and creativity in bringing out less common traditional methods and steering traditional varieties in new directions benefits the beer enjoying community as a whole.  I am happy to celebrate craft beer in Virginia not just during the month of August, but year round as well.  

— Sean Peters, Contributor